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Statistics and Commentary as Sen. Martha McSally Speaks Publicly About Rape and the Military; Alex Trebek Diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer; Senator Lindsey Graham to Bring Gun Control Legislation Before Judiciary Committee on March 26th; Facebook Announces Major Overhaul to Emphasize Privacy and Cross-Platform Communication. Aired 10:30-11:00a ET

Aired March 7, 2019 - 10:30   ET



SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: In one case, I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer. I stayed silent for many years. I didn't report being sexually assaulted.

Like so many women and men, I didn't trust the system at the time. I blamed myself. I was ashamed and confused. And I thought I was strong, but felt powerless.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): McSally's story, even more astonishing because of who she is. McSally crushed military and societal barriers, America's first female fighter pilot to fly in combat.

She sued the Department of Defense over a policy requiring all women to cover themselves off-base in Saudi Arabia, a policy that the DOD would change.

A proud veteran, McSally told me as she launched her Senate run, how central her military career was to her identity. But when she eventually reported the assault to her superiors,

MCSALLY: I was horrified at how my attempt to share, generally, my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair. Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again. But I didn't quit.

LAH (voice-over): McSally had survived assault before joining the military, telling "The Wall Street Journal" that, at age 17, her high school track coach sexually abused her. The coach denied the allegations to the "Journal."

TEXT: "I believe she's nuts," he said. "That girl is the most scheming woman I ever met."

MCSALLY: Are you going to be a fighter pilot?

LAH (voice-over): During her unsuccessful run for the Senate as a Republican, McSally talked about the hard time she suffered as a younger woman. Now, as a U.S. senator appointed to fill the late Senator John McCain's seat, she is fighting for change in the military on behalf of survivors like her.

MCSALLY: We must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women and, yes, some men as well.

LAH: The Air Force released a statement after Senator McSally spoke in the subcommittee hearing. The statement reading, quote, "The criminal actions reported today by Senator McSally violate every part of what it means to be an Airman. We are appalled and deeply sorry for that Senator McSally experienced and we stand behind her and all victims of sexual assault. We are steadfast in our commitment to eliminate this reprehensible behavior and breach of trust in our ranks."

Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Wow. Remarkable. McSally's revelations bring to light this disturbing report from the Defense Department. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 10 percent increase in sexual assault cases.

TEXT: Sexual Assault in the Military: In Fiscal Year 2017, 6,769 reports of assault; In Fiscal Year 2016, 6,172 reports of assault. A nearly 10 percent increase from year to year.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Just (ph) the courage that it took for her to come out so publicly with this.

Joining us now is the president of Protect Our Defenders and a retired Air Force colonel, Don Christensen. He also previously served as a defense attorney in the Air Force, where he represented the men accused of rape.

Colonel, thanks for joining us today. It's great to have your experience here. And just personally, I want to ask you. So you're someone who was defending those accused. You are now a prosecutor representing rape victims. And I'm curious about your personal decision to make that change.

COL. DON CHRISTENSEN, PRESIDENT, PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS: Well, thanks for having me here today.

You know, it was tough. You know, we need defense counsel. We need people who are dedicated to fighting for those who are accused of committing crimes.

But the reality is that most women and men who come forward with sexual assault allegations are telling the truth. And you job is, in many ways, to get somebody acquitted who is, in fact, guilty.

So you know, it wears on you after a while and it was something I just couldn't do any more. HARLOW: Wow. You know, we just heard Senator McSally say, quote, "I

felt like the system was raping me all over again." And it's clear that the system's not working. We read that one statistic to you. Here's another from a new Pentagon report that shows that sexual assault at U.S. military academies are up 50 percent from 2016.

TEXT: Incidents of Sexual Assault at Military Academies: 2017-2018 Academic Year, 747 cadets experienced unwanted sexual contact. 2015- 2016 Academic Year, 507 cadets experienced unwanted sexual contact. That's a nearly 50 percent increase.

HARLOW: Is it fair, sir, to call this a crisis right now in the institutions?

CHRISTENSEN: Absolutely. Senator McSally earlier today said this is a national security issue. I agree with her a hundred percent. This is a national security issue.

America needs men and women who are willing to serve freely and voluntarily in the military. We definitely need women. They make up 15 percent of the services. And if women are being sexually assaulted at the rate they are, they're not going to join and we're not going to meet the demands of the nation.

SCIUTTO: The military has been trying to address this for some years now. That's one reason why that increase in reported cases is so alarming, so disturbing. And I wonder why you think that is, and is a portion of that better reporting? Are female airmen -- or airwomen -- more willing to come forward when they have allegations of sexual assault?

[10:35:03] CHRISTENSEN: Well, I think what Senator McSally said, how she felt raped by the process, is the biggest problem. We've had decades of promises from military leadership, that they have zero tolerance so they're going to take this seriously.

But prosecution rates are dismal. The conviction rates are absurdly low. And so that doesn't instill confidence.

And then one of the biggest problems is, is retaliation. When men and women come forward, it's often --



CHRISTENSEN: -- a career-ending event for them.

HARLOW: So there is legislation to try to address a lot of this, try to change the system, try to change what's mandated in terms of taking action and the reporting structure.

One attempt at this is the Military Justice Improvement Act. This, of course, brought forth by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the last Congress. You were actually consulted by her and her team on this. What would it do and is this an answer that would at least help? CHRISTENSEN: What it would do is, it would change the archaic

military justice process, where commanders make the decision to prosecute. And so you look at Senator McSally, she was raped by somebody who's superior to her, who's going to have a relationship with her commander.

And instead of having commanders make this decision, they would have trained military prosecutors make the decision. I think that would result in better cases going to trial, more cases going to trial. And greater confidence in the survivor community.

And so I think that would also lead to a cultural change that we need to see in the military.


SCIUTTO: And you wonder if Martha McSally's willingness to go public gives other --

HARLOW: Does that. Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- victims the confidence to do the same. You can only hope.

Colonel Christensen, thanks for joining us and thanks for the work you do on this.

HARLOW: Yes. Thanks so much.

CHRISTENSEN: Absolutely. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: He's a television icon and now a cancer fighter. Alex Trebek's message to his fans. That's coming up.


[10:41:33] SCIUTTO: Some very sad news this morning. The television icon, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, he's hosted that show for nearly 35 years. Announcing in public, with a video, that he's been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.

HARLOW: He is 78 years old, and he posted this moving message to fans on Wednesday, saying he will fight this.


ALEX TREBEK, HOST, JEOPARDY!: I'm going to fight this. And I'm going to keep working. And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers, also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.

Truth told? I have to. Because under the terms of my contract, I have to host "Jeopardy!" for three more years, so help me.


HARLOW: Oh. We all want to help him. With us now is our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

He's such a staple in so many American households, living rooms, every evening. But you look at the numbers, you know? I think a statistic I read, 95 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die. Why?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, the numbers really are so sobering. So, Poppy, what that number is, is that if you look at people with pancreatic cancer that's stage IV, so advanced cancer that's spread to distant parts of the body, five years after that diagnosis, only three percent of them are still alive.

Those are not great numbers. Now, the American Cancer Society makes a point of saying, "Look, this -- you can't predict what's going to happen to any one person." And so obviously we are all praying and wishing Alex Trebek the best. But those are sort of the average, the average statistics that talk about what typically happens.

SCIUTTO: Now, there are folks who survive. And some famous folks who survive, RBG survived pancreatic cancer. And those are hopeful stories, but you don't want it to give undue hope. What are the treatment options that make that more likely?

COHEN: Right. So, Jim, what they really try to focus on is chemotherapy for this disease. And doctors are very clear, they're not thinking about curing it at this stage. Really, what they're thinking of is slowing the progression and keeping the patient as comfortable as possible.

TEXT: Pancreatic Cancer: Most patients are older than 45; Nearly 90 percent are older than 55; Average age of diagnosis is 71

COHEN: So mainly, that's chemotherapy. Some patients do get surgery. But it's not the kind of surgery that we hear of, for example, for a lump in a woman's breast, where you're hoping to remove all of it. They don't usually remove all of it because by the time pancreatic cancer is diagnosed, typically is has spread pretty far and it's really impossible to remove all of it.

HARLOW: So it would all -- I mean, as you noted, the key reason here, why it's so deadly is because of the lack of symptoms, right? It's not like some of the other cancers where you have these symptoms. So it's almost as though if there were something to make it more symptomatic, it would be so helpful.

COHEN: Right. It actually would be better, ironically, if people felt sick. But people often don't feel sick at the beginning stages, or at the stage where pancreatic cancer is diagnosed.

TEXT: Pancreatic Cancer in the U.S.: Fourth leading cause of death from cancer; Around 56,770 new cases will be diagnosed this year; Estimated 45,750 people will die from this cancer this year

COHEN: So they have pancreatic cancer, it's spread, but they often feel OK. And so the first signs are often things like jaundice or unexplained weight loss, or, oddly enough, itching is also another sign. But, you know, by the time these signs show up, usually the pancreatic cancer has spread.

And there are some other reasons why it's so difficult to treat this disease, and why it is so deadly. One of them is that the pancreas is, it's way in there. It is deep in the middle of your abdomen. The organ itself doesn't have any kind of capsule around it, so it really spreads quite quickly.

HARLOW: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for reporting --

COHEN: Thanks.

HARLOW: -- this. Alex Trebek, with his humor always, right?

We're thinking of you.

[10:44:57] The Republican-controlled Senate is set to hold a hearing on gun control. This is a big deal. We'll have an exclusive report on it next.


HARLOW: Now to a CNN exclusive. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Lindsey Graham, says he'll hold a hearing on gun control legislation later this month.

TEXT: Gun Control Hearing: Scheduled for March 26th by the Senate Judiciary Committee: Sen. Lindsey Graham is the committee chairman. Expected to cover "red flag" laws: Would allow federal courts to issue gun restraining orders against potentially dangerous people; Passed in some states; Sen. Graham is advocating to implement on federal level

SCIUTTO: That's right. GOP-controlled committee hearing --

HARLOW: Big deal.

SCIUTTO: -- he says that it will cover extreme risk protection, or red flag laws, already passed by some states. These allow federal courts to issue gun restraining orders against potentially dangerous people. Joining us now is CNN's Elizabeth Landers. She's breaking this story just now.

It's a rare move by a Republican senator in a Republican-controlled committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. What's behind this? And is there a sense already of how far this could go?

[10:50:06] ELIZABETH LANDERS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Sure. I mean, Lindsey Graham, I might also add, is a very close ally of the president. So this is significant in that regard as well, Jim.

But Graham has committed to his Democratic colleagues on that committee, that he is going to hold a hearing later this month, on March 26th, to talk about gun control.

Graham is specifically interested in this concept, in the top of red flag laws. Now, he told me yesterday, when I spoke with him about this, that this is the kind of law that he thinks could have prevented a shooting in Parkland.

Basically, these red flag laws would allow either a family member or a local law enforcement official in a community to go to a judge and say, "Look, someone that we know has either indicated to us or on social media that they might hurt themselves or hurt other people."

And then a federal judge can decide if that person should temporarily have their guns taken away, and also would prohibit them from purchasing guns.

So Lindsey Graham think that this is a common ground, that he can work with his Democratic colleagues on. He has sponsored this kind of legislation in the past. Last year, he worked across the aisle with Democratic Senator Dick Blumenthal from Connecticut on this kind of issue.

It's not clear yet if Lindsey Graham will sponsor this legislation again. But Blumenthal is heartened by just the fact that Graham will hold this committee hearing in a public, open setting on this.

He told me yesterday -- this was Blumenthal -- he said, "I think his taking" -- Lindsey Graham's taking -- "this step is profoundly important, not just because it will help advance legislation, but it indicates his strong personal sympathy to the idea of a red flag statute."

TEXT: I think [Senator Lindsey Graham] taking this step is profoundly important -- not just because it will help advance legislation but it indicates his strong personal sympathy to the idea of a red flag statute."

LANDERS: Now, realistically, this kind of bill and this kind of legislation, if it became legislation, wouldn't pass in the Senate. But it is significant that Lindsey Graham is working across the aisle with his colleagues, and is going to hold this public hearing -- Jim and Poppy.



SCIUTTO: -- Graham has famously said the Parkland shooter did everything but take out an ad --


HARLOW: Right.

LANDERS: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: -- before. And he did. He had a lot of public comments that should have been alarming. It's a great story, Elizabeth Landers --

HARLOW: Great reporting, Elizabeth.

SCIUTTO: -- thanks very much for breaking it for us.

LANDERS: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, a new strategy for Facebook that includes privacy and encryption. Imagine that. So what changed?


[10:56:39] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN, the most trusted name in news.

SCIUTTO: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is mapping out an entirely new vision for the company. In a statement on Wednesday, he said that he wants to reposition Facebook as a privacy-focused platform. That's a lot different.

HARLOW: Yes. And maybe this -- you know, should have come sooner. This comes after multiple embarrassing privacy issues at the company including hacks that affected up to 50 million users, stolen information, more scandals. Our senior media reporter Oliver Darcy is here.

It's a big deal, you know. It's making a lot of headlines. Substantively, what will it do?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Well it reads like something out of "The Onion," right? Facebook has been riddled with all these privacy scandals over the past few years. And now they come out and say they want to focus on privacy and making sure that people the ability to communicate securely on their platform.

TEXT: Facebook's New Vision Focuses On: Private interactions; Encryption; Sharing content that won't stick around permanently; Safety; Allowing users to communicate across networks easily and securely; Secure data storage

DARCY: So what it would do is a lot of things. This is a sweeping change. But mainly, he wants to focus away from what he calls the "digital town square," Zuckerberg says.

Like the news feed is where you post publicly, and he's seeing (ph) that users want to move directionally away to communicate privately with family and friends and in group chats. And he wants to double down on those efforts.

And so one of the ways he wants to double down is, they own Instagram, they own WhatsApp, they own Messenger. And so he wants to allow people to communicate between those platforms on each app. So if I had Instagram, I could message you on Facebook. If you had WhatsApp, you could message someone on Instagram. That's one of the changes he outlines, bringing these together.

And then the other thing is that he wants to focus on privacy. He wants everything encrypted. So when you message someone, you know that it's secure. Only the people that are supposed to see it are going to see it.

And so those are the -- some of the changes he's outlining. But there's a lot more in here. This is a really big deal.


SCIUTTO: I mean, is that a credible change? Because not to be, you know, blunt here, but it's like a cigarette company saying, "You know, we're going to focus on healthy living."


SCIUTTO: I mean, just --


HARLOW: So -- it's -- that's a good analogy.

SCIUTTO: -- in the worst -- in the worst, you know, cases, you know --

DARCY: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- a company that's had repeated privacy violations.

DARCY: Right. And Zuckerberg acknowledges this in the blog post announcing these changes. I have part of it. I mean, he says in here, "I understand that many people don't think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform because, frankly, we don't currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services. But we've repeatedly shown that we can evolve."

And I think that's key, whether they can evolve. And people are going to be paying close attention to this. So we'll see.

HARLOW: There's also, as you noted when we were talking earlier, an issue with diverting away from the fake news news feed issue that is at the forefront for Facebook, too.

DARCY: Right. And so if you have encrypted messaging, Facebook will acknowledge that they would not, in theory, be able to see what you're messaging. They won't see the content.

And so this can have a lot of ramifications. One, mainly, is that Facebook collects (ph) this data on users and sells it to advertisers, or at least allows advertisers to target those people. And that's how they make most of their money.

So this is a -- it would affect their business model, one.


DARCY: But, two, they wouldn't be able to see the activity going on on Facebook as much. So people may be able to use their platform for illegal services, coordinating terrorism. And they wouldn't be able to see that.

So this poses a lot of challenges for Facebook --

HARLOW: Oh, wow.

DARCY: -- as well as --

HARLOW: National security.

DARCY: National security. I mean, this is --

SCIUTTO: Election interference. That that --

DARCY: This is huge.

SCIUTTO: -- was (ph) still active in 2018, still active coming up in 2020 --


SCIUTTO: -- using Facebook.


[11:00:01] SCIUTTO: Oliver, great to have you.

HARLOW: Thank you.

DARCY: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thanks for being with us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR WITH KATE BOLDUAN" starts right now.